While the country continues to be hit by violence, Afghan government seems to be at loggerheads with its international allies over corruption, civilian casualties and reconciliation with Taliban militants. It was understandable from the president Karzai's sarcastic remarks against international operation and work and the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry's reactions on Saturday and Sunday this week respectively. The situation seems to be gloomy at least in the short term. President Karzai continues to play politics with the parliament through Special Election Commission. He continues to speak against the international community that has invested in the country in blood and money over the last one decade.
Last month, president Karzai referred to "occupation" when he denounced a NATO attack that killed civilians saying, "If they continue their attacks on our houses, then their presence will change from a force that is fighting against terrorism to a force that is fighting against the people of Afghanistan. And in that case, history shows what Afghans do with trespassers and with occupiers".
In his most recent diatribe against international community, President Hamid Karzai said that the world nations are here in Afghanistan and using our country to follow their own national interests. On Monday, June 20, finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal said the Afghan government had severed its relations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for stopping a $70 million payment after the near collapse of nation's largest private bank.Zakhilwal said the IMF wanted to hand over the investigation of Kabul Bank's dealings to a foreign institution. He said his ministry was making efforts to address the crisis as quickly as possible, and asked the fund not to apply further pressure. Also the same day, Chief of the High Office of Oversight and Anti-corruption said contracts provided by foreigners cause a triple increase in corruption in Afghanistan. These are the accusations that are leveled against the international community by the Afghan side.
On the other hand, international community wants the government to fight corruption sincerely and honestly and hold those responsible for the Kabul bank collapse accountable, which may be difficult for the government because of the culture of impunity that has developed in the country.It is clear-cut that the countries are involved in Afghan mission not out of pure ethical principles alone. National interests do guide the policies, strategies and conduct of states/countries in their relations with other states/countries. The importance and determining role of national interests could be construed from what Duke Henri de Rohan said, "Princes rule peoples, and interests dominate the princes."
In late 2001, Afghanistan and international community embarked on a joint journey of fight against terrorists and to stabilize the country. After a decade of joint operations, cooperation and international assistance to Afghanistan, now president Karzai has begun to analyze the presence of international community in the country from national interests point of view. It should be said that there is no doubt that the national interests of allied countries in the war against terrorism guide their presence in Afghanistan but it is equally important to know that their interests do not conflict those of Afghanistan otherwise the people would not welcome and support international community about a decade ago.
The two sets of national interests- those of Afghanistan and its international allies- may not be fully identical but they are complementary. To say in public speech that international community follows their national interests cannot reduce the importance of international community in Afghanistan in the fight against the terrorists and Taliban militants- the satellite branch of broader Al-Qaeda network- that continue to kill innocent people, burn down schools, destroy the very asphalted roads funded by the international community and deprive Afghan children of education, which is obligatory for both male and female Muslims according to our sublime faith of Islam. It is, therefore, important to mention that the president will never be called a hero if he loses the opportunity rendered available after the presence of international community. That is what the U.S ambassador Karl Eikenberry told students and professors at Heart University, "When we hear ourselves being called occupiers and worse, and our generous aid programs dismissed as totally ineffective and the source of all corruption, our pride is offended and we begin to lose our inspiration to carry on."
It is expected that the president's speech should represent what Afghan people want. It is clear that they want to continue the joint mission and do not want to bite the hands that feed them. Afghan people have already been witnesses to the legacy of Taliban thinking: massacres of their fellow-citizens in different parts of the country, destruction of their cultural heritages, years of deprivation of education and obstruction of progress and development. Even today Afghan people continue to beg aid from international community to build schools to educate themselves and rebuild their country but since the militants are not defeated and dismantled, Afghans see the signs of Taliban and Mullah Mohammad Omar's thinking in torched schools, bombed roads, destroyed bridges and sometimes cruelly beheaded men and women of their country. All the disagreements happen while Afghanistan is going through a transition in the throes of continued challenges.
The year 2014 is an important deadline in the partnership between Afghanistan and its international allies that have been actively helping the country politically, militarily and financially since 2001 after the brutal regime of Taliban was ousted in a U.S.-led international intervention. A decade has elapsed and Afghanistan is yet to meet the expectations of its people or even address the basic problem of security. Now international partners of Afghanistan continue to state that their cooperation would continue beyond 2014, which is said to be the end of the process for Afghan national security to take the lead in security throughout the country. It is good to hear all these promises but it is important to know which direction Afghanistan will have gone by 2014. It is the government of Afghanistan led by President Hamid Karzai that has to choose the direction to move the country forward. Unfortunately, president Karzai seems to be too perplexed to figure out it. By stubbornly pursuing the ineffective one-sided peace process, the government is causing further cleavages among the political groups in the country that continue to fall victim to the obstinately continued violence by the Taliban militants and terrorists. This could lead to another round of political instability if the government really does not take a tougher approach towards the barbarous enemy.
On Wednesday last week, US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, told his country's lawmakers "These projections assume that the number of troops in Afghanistan will be significantly reduced by the end of 2014 in accordance with the president's and NATO's strategy." The ostensibly firm decision of withdrawal has given rise to concern among political observers and analysts given the ongoing deteriorating security situation and the weaknesses of Afghan national security forces in terms of quality. However, the major concern stems from the confusion of and one-sided approach by the government towards the so-called reconciliation with the insurgents and terrorists. So Afghanistan is in the middle of challenges and loggerheads.